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Ragwort Hysteria – Fen Ragwort Destroyed at Ely

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Those of you who are regular visitors to this blog will already know my views on Ragwort and my experiences with it (those of you who don’t – please see past blog entries).

However over the last few weeks it seems Ragwort Hysteria has hit the Fens due to a blog post on stating that a very rare form of Ragwort called ‘Fen Ragwort’ has been destroyed.

It seems that this type of ragwort is only found at this particular site and how or who destroyed it remains a mystery but it is thought it was caused by human intervention due to its far more rampant cousin, the common ragwort’s growing reputation that animals who ingest it over time become ill and die.

Common Ragwort in a well managed field but adjacent meadows are unmanaged causing hazards to sheep and cattle.

I too am incensed when I hear of a rare plant being destroyed and although I have been affected personally more than most by ragwort during my time as a sheep farmer, I still maintain my view that there isn’t a ragwort problem but a management awareness problem.

Through our work at Giles Landscapes CMS we have been involved in countless conservation projects from turning polluted Brownfield sites into hectares of wonderful meadows full of wild flowers and grasses to establishing and maintaining native flora and fauna rich habitats at energy plants and other industrial sites.

Bicker Fen

Bicker Fen

Granta Park, Cambridge

Granta Park, Cambridge

But my experience over many years tells me the danger to livestock from ragwort is generally very underplayed and misunderstood especially by some of the scientists and veterinary analysts who are hampered by the fact that most carcases bought in for post mortem have no clues as to whether the unfortunate animals have ingested ragwort over a period of time leading up to their death.

I see the ragwort issue from both sides – as a landscaper and conservationist who sends teams of landscapers to work on barren sites transforming them into balanced ecosystems all over the country- but I have also personally suffered the devastation that badly managed water meadows can cause to livestock and landowners.

Gunpowder Park

Gunpowder Park

In my view we should learn from the traditions of the past to temper the changes needed for the future as Sir Peter Scott did when establishing the WWT on the Welney water meadows. A balance needs to be made but until meaningful trials are carried out on the potential dangers of ragwort there will continue to be hysteria surrounding this enigmatic but potentially deadly plant.

Roger Giles – Non Executive Chairman Giles Landscapes CMS

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